VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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This Christmas, Remember The Persecuted

reminder-setting

 

(Voice of the Persecuted) My Brothers and Sisters, many of you will be sitting down with family and friends enjoying their fellowship. Perhaps you will be opening gifts and enjoying Christmas dinner. With no doubt, we will reflect upon the birth of Jesus. For sure there is much to be thankful for. God has given unto us a Savior. One who has saved us from our sins. For Jesus is the greatest gift.
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However, many of our brothers and sisters will not be enjoying the fellowship of the their families and loved ones. Many of them will not even have a Christmas dinner. These will be our persecuted brothers and sisters in restricted nations.
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Dear saints, let us remember our dear sister, Asia Bibi who has spent over 8 years in a Pakistani prison because of her testimony.  Many other persecuted Pakistani asylum seekers stuck in the limbo of the asylum process seen as prey or possible terrorists. Believers in Eritrea held captive in shipping containers barely surviving the extreme conditions. Remember those in China arrested because they share the Good News of our Lord and Savior. Our Nigerian brothers and sisters who fled the Boko Haram, but now languishing for years in an IDP refugee camp as it’s still too dangerous to return home. Let us remember Rev. Andrew Bronson recently separated from his family and put in a Turkish prison under false charges.

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Sudan Delaying Case against Pastors to Avoid Releasing Them, Sources Say

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(Morning Star News) – Officials in Sudan are delaying a verdict in the trial of two pastors and two others because evidence is insufficient for conviction and they do not want to release them, sources told Morning Star News.

The Rev. Kwa (also transliterated Kuwa) Shamaal, head of Missions of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), and the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor were arrested from their homes on Dec. 18, 2015. They are charged with crimes, some punishable by death, that range from spying to inciting hatred against the government.

The case has been marked by postponements and judges who were said to be out of the country when court hearings were scheduled, according to advocacy groups. One Khartoum church leader, unnamed for security reasons, told Morning Star News the government is delaying the acquittal and release of the two pastors and two others due to Islamist pressures within the country.

“There is nothing serious in the case up to this point,” he said. “They have brought more than three witnesses, and there is still not any evidence.”

After the two pastors’ arrest a year ago, Shamaal was released on Dec. 21, 2015 but was required to report daily to the offices of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), a requirement that was removed on Jan. 16. He was re-arrested on May 25.

Shamaal and Abdelrahim Tawor are charged with trying to tarnish the image of Sudan’s government by collecting information on persecution of Christians and genocide in the Nuba Mountains. The charges include collecting information for “other parties hostile to Sudan.” They are accused of conducting intelligence activities and providing material support for Nuba rebels in South Kordofan under two charges that carry the death penalty – waging war against the state (Article 51 of the Sudanese Criminal Code) and spying (Article 53).

Similarly charged are Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur. Abdumawla, who initially said he was Muslim but later admitted he was Christian, was arrested in December 2015 after he began collecting money to help a friend, Ali Omer, who had needed treatment for burns suffered in a student demonstration. Abdumawla contacted Abdelrahim Tawor, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which apparently raised the ire of Sudanese authorities, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Omer had been injured during a demonstration at Quran Karim University in Omdurman last year that left him with severe burns that required regular medical care, according to CSW. A senior member of the student wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) died when 150 NCP students attacked Darfuri students at a meeting at Sharg El Nil College in Khartoum in April 2015, CSW reported.

Since then, Darfuri students have been increasingly targeted by the NISS, which has violently suppressed peaceful student demonstrations against government repression, CSW reported. NISS is said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists with broad powers to arrest people the government deems undesirable.

Pastor Abdelrahim Tawor, along with other pastors, was arrested after attending a missions conference in Addis Abba, Ethiopia in October 2015. Upset by the conference, NISS official interrogated Abdelrahim Tawor about accusations that those in attendance spoke of Sudan’s government persecuting Christians, a claim church leaders deny.

Prosecutors have charged Czech aid worker Jasek, also arrested in December 2015, with “tarnishing Sudan’s image” by documenting persecution. He is also charged with waging war against the state, reportedly based on an accusation that he gave money to “some individuals” in South Kordofan in 2012, allegedly including some rebel fighters.

At one hearing, NISS official Abbas el Tahir accused the defendants of conducting “hostile activities against the state that threaten the national and social security” in Sudan, according to Netherlands-based Radio Dabanga.

“Since 2012, we banned organizations or individuals working against Sudan,” El Tahir reportedly said. “However, these NGOs still work and plan to threaten the national security and harm the society’s interest.”

He accused aid organizations of publishing false reports against Sudan.

Defense attorney Muhanad Nur told Morning Star News that the charges against the Christians are baseless.

“Statements of the prosecutor indicate that there were no bases for all the charges brought against them,” he said.

Sources said police are not only prohibiting family members from visiting the jailed Christians but harassing them when they try to do so.

Foreign diplomats and international rights activists have taken notice of the case since Morning Star News broke the story of the arrest of two pastors in December 2015. Their arrest is seen as part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir in connection with war crimes in Darfur. Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

NIGERIA – Another priest kidnapped in the Delta region

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(Agenzia Fides) – Another Catholic priest, Fr. Jude Onyebadi, pastor of the church of St. Peter and Paul in Issele-Azagba, in the Delta region in the south of the Country has been kidnapped in Nigeria. According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, he was seized on December 16 by three armed men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, in his pineapple plantation.
The kidnappers initially asked for 50 million Naira (152,000 euros), then went down to 20 million (61,000 euros) Naira for the release of the priest.

The Director of Social Communications of the Diocese of Issele-Uku, Charles Uganwa, confirmed the kidnapping and called on the kidnappers to release the hostages unconditionally, remembering that the Catholic Church does not pay ransoms.

In 2016, several Catholic priests were kidnapped in Nigeria, especially in the southern regions. Fr. Sylvester Onmoke, President of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, NCDPA has described “the recent spate of kidnappings of priests and religious as an assault on the Church”

Death threats target Turkey’s Protestants

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Fifteen Turkish Protestant congregations and their leaders have been targeted since 27 Aug. by a strident campaign of death threats sent to their Facebook, email, websites and mobile telephones.

The threats followed the style and jargon typically used by the so-called Islamic State (IS), vowing to kill, massacre and behead apostates who the messages accused of having “chosen the path that denies Allah” and “dragged others into believing as you do… As heretics you have increased your numbers with ignorant followers”.

“Threats are not anything new for the Protestant community who live in this country and want to raise their children here,” the Association of Protestant Christians in Turkey said in a press release on 1 Sept. “But with the recent increase in systematic threats, from this country’s west to east and north to south, in different cities, we think that these messages, coming close together and resembling each other, are coming from the same source.”

A copy of one message seen by World Watch Monitor displayed the IS flag and called itself “those who go to jihad”. It warned: “Perverted infidels, the time that we will strike your necks is soon. May Allah receive the glory and praise.”

Most of the messages included a direct quote from the Al-Ahzab chapter of the Quran, which threatens “those who spread false news… Accursed, they shall be seized wherever found and killed with a horrible slaughter.”

A link was also posted for an Arabic video subtitled in Turkish on YouTube entitled, “The religious proofs why apostates should be killed”.

One pastor attacked over both email and SMS messages told World Watch Monitor, “They are saying things like they had been waiting for us to return to Islam, and that we are responsible for other Muslims turning to Christ, that our time is up and that Allah will give them our heads”.

The majority of Turkish Protestant congregations are former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. In contrast to most Muslim-majority nations, Turkish citizens have the legal right to change their religious identity or leave blank the religion column on their IDs.

Church leaders who received the messages were encouraged by the association to notify the police and public prosecutors in their local area regarding the threats.

Turkey’s stance towards IS

Turkey’s apparent ambivalence over the past year towards the Islamic State fighting on its borders for control over large sections of neighbouring Syria and Iraq remains under the international spotlight. But in early August, the state-controlled Religious Affairs Directorate issued its first condemnation of the jihadist group as a “terrorist” organisation, officially declaring it “non-Muslim”.

Condemning the self-proclaimed IS Caliphate for its “twisted” portrayal of Islam and the Quran, the Turkish government then released a detailed report to inform the public about the group’s tactics, slogans, operations and interpretation of Islam through weekly sermons, fatwas (religious edicts) and Quran courses.

Within just 10 days, IS responded with a new video directly threatening Turkey and its president, warning the people of Turkey against “atheists, crusaders and devils who fool them and make them a slave of the crusaders”. Vowing to conquer Istanbul soon, the speaker, using the alias Abu Ammar, called on the Turkish people to abandon democracy, secularism and human rights and instead follow Sharia.

Speaking in fluent Turkish on the seven-minute clip, which was distinctly amateur in comparison with the jihadists’ usual slick videos, the man was later identified as a 47-year-old Turkish citizen who had taken his wife and children to Syria to join IS in 2014.

World Watch Monitor

 

Murder of Fulani Christian mayor in Mali increases concerns over creeping Islamic extremism

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World watch Monitor reports the motive behind the murder of a Fulani Christian politician in Mali last month remains unknown, but locals suspect an Islamist agenda.

Moussa Issah Bary, the 47-year-old deputy mayor of Kerana (near the Burkina Faso border), was shot dead by six unidentified men on motorbikes on 16 November. He is survived by a wife and eight children.

Bary’s murder came just days before municipal elections. He was a rare example of a Christian member of the Fulani tribe, some of whose militant extremists have become infamous in Nigeria for committing atrocities which have seen them named as one of the top five deadliest militias in the world.

“This tragedy has sent sadness, fears and concerns among the Fulani Christians in several countries, most of whom knew Moussa or just heard of this brutal death,” a local source told World Watch Monitor. “Until now, there has been no official claim from the actors of this disaster.

“We do not know whether it is because of his faith that he was brutally attacked or because of his political position.”

Mali has suffered from a wave of Islamic extremism in recent years, since militants and foreign fighters made common cause with Tuareg rebels to take over a large portion of the country in 2012. For most of that year, until the French military were forced to intervene, armed Islamist groups ruled the region, banning the practice of other religions and desecrating and looting churches and other places of worship.

Since then, Mali has been blighted by regular Islamist attacks, including the recent |bombing of two airports{/link} in the north of the country and, earlier in the year, the kidnapping of a Swiss missionary, whose whereabouts is still unknown.

In June, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb released a video, purporting to show that Beatrice Stockly, who was kidnapped for the second time in January, was still alive. The three-minute video showed a veiled Stockly speaking in French, saying that she has been detained for 130 days but was still in good health and had been treated well.

During the 2012 occupation, thousands, including many Christians, fled and found refuge in the south, or in neighbouring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso. Others fled to Bamako, the capital, and other safer towns in the south.

Unlike other Christians, Stockly remained in Timbuktu. At her mother and brother’s urging, she returned to Switzerland after her 2012 kidnapping, but soon returned, saying, “It’s Timbuktu or nothing”.

The Malian government and the predominantly Tuareg rebel groups signed a peace agreement in June 2015, with limited impact. Jihadist groups have regained ground and intensified attacks, targeting Mali security forces and UN peacekeepers. Their scope has spread to southern regions previously spared by their incursions.

In December last year, three men were killed when an unidentified gunman opened fire outside Radio Tahanint (Radio Mercy in the local dialect), which is closely linked with a Baptist Church in Timbuktu. A month earlier, terrorists had killed 22 people at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako.

Islamic extremism in Mali is part of a wider regional problem. Across Africa’s vast Sahel region, which spans the width of the continent, jihadist groups such as Ansar Dine, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram and Islamic State are all active.

A report from Open Doors, a charity providing support to the global Church under pressure, said that the rise of Islamist militancy in the region is undermining freedom of religion.

According to the report, puritanical and militant versions of Islam (particularly Salafism/Wahhabism) are increasingly taking root – in a manner that reflects recent developments in the rest of the world – as a result of Islamist missionaries and NGOs from the Middle East, funded by (until recently) oil-rich Gulf States like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

KAZAKHSTAN: Christian women fined for praying with hospice patients

Kazakhstan

Lyudmila Kerbele, Nadezhda Krasilnikova and Lidiya Kosatova, all pensioners between the ages of 61 and 72 – are members of Rodnik Baptist Church in Oskemen (Ust-Kamenogorsk). For many years the church has helped residents of the privately-run Zhandauren Hospice with clothes, wheelchairs and medicines.

“The place is quite poor, sad and depressing,” one church member told Forum 18 from Oskemen, “and the 100 or so lonely elderly residents rarely have any visitors. Some of them live there for years, forsaken by their children or relatives, either unable to care for themselves or having no other place to live, and some require round the clock care.” The church member stressed that the owners, management and staff are “very kind, hard working and dedicated people” doing all that they can to provide care for their residents.

Praying at hospice residents’ request

On the afternoon of 14 October, the three women brought tea and sweets for the residents, talking to and praying with some of them and offering copies of the New Testament.

“Our ladies only visited and met with those who invited them to come,” the church member added. “They did not impose themselves or their care on anyone, nor did they create any disturbance. The staff (particularly the head manager) were always open and happy to see them and others from Rodnik there and had no objections.”  (more…)

American Pastor Andrew Brunson Wrongfully Imprisoned In Turkey

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RAISE YOUR VOICE 

An American pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Turkey has imprisoned this American pastor without any evidence. He has been a Christian pastor in Turkey for the past 23 years.  (more…)

EVENT: ‘Defending the Persecuted in December’ 24-hour Prayer Conference Call Event

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The Invite to Pray

Matthew 26:36-38
 …Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”   And He took with him, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and begin to be grieved and distressed. Then he said to them, ” My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death, remain here and keep watch with Me.”
In the above account Jesus is getting ready to go to the cross. He tells eight of his disciples to sit and wait while he went to pray. However, Jesus invited three of his closet disciples to come and keep watch with Him.  In essence, the Son of God invited them to come near in his hour of need.  His request may have been,  ‘Please pray that God will strengthen me in the trial that lies before me.’

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